Picking a web browser can be tough. They all have pros and cons, and if you’re like me, you hop between them every so often just because you can. But there’s no doubt about it: one browser is far more popular than the others (with a desktop market share of 58 percent) and that browser is Chrome.
There are many reasons to love Chrome, and I’ve highlighted some of them in our Chrome vs. Firefox comparison, but there’s one feature that tends to get overlooked: the ability to have multiple user profiles. And yes, user profiles are useful even when you’re the only one that uses your computer.
What Are Chrome Browser Profiles?
The user profile feature isn’t new. First released in Chrome 16, way back in late 2011, we’ve been able to take advantage of them for a while now — yet I have to admit that I’d never even given them a try until earlier this year. And boy, have I been missing out!
A Chrome user profile allows you to maintain all of your browser details as one distinct unit: apps, extensions, settings, browsing history, bookmarks, saved passwords, themes, and open tabs. Profiles are launched as separate Chrome windows, and each window only uses the details for its particular profile.
One bonus is that user profiles are synchronized with Google’s servers. Any change you make on one machine (e.g. install a new extension) will apply anywhere else you use Chrome as long as you use the same user profile.
This also comes in handy if you have a Chromebook (or ever plan on getting one) because each user profile can be a separate login account on the device. Even with a Chromebook, user profiles stay synced between your devices.
How to Add a New Chrome Browser Profile
- Launch Chrome.
- In the three-dot menu, select Settings.
- Scroll down to the People section.
- Click Add person. Select a picture, give it a name, and click Add. Make sure Create a desktop shortcut for this user is enabled before you add! This allows the nifty trick below.
To switch between profiles, look to the top right of the Chrome window and you’ll see a button in the title bar with your current profile name. Click it to browse and switch to other profiles. (On Mac, you switch profiles by going to the People menu instead.)
Here’s the aforementioned nifty trick: On Windows 10, if you created a desktop shortcut at the time of creating a new profile, you can right-click and select Pin to Taskbar to add that specific profile to your Taskbar. As you can see above, I use four separate profiles and each one is individually pinned.
5 Chrome Browser Profiles to Start Using Now
To see how Chrome user profiles can make your life easier, here are a few profile types that I’m using right now (or have used in the past). You might be surprised by some of the benefits you can start reaping right away.
1. Work Profile
A long time ago, I used to designate Firefox as my “main” browser and Chrome as my “work” browser because I have a Chrome-only work-related extension. This worked fine, but I’d often lament the fact that I couldn’t use Chrome for anything other than work.
Now that I have a separate profile for work, I can freely use Chrome for other things. But the greatest benefit is that I’ve become far more productive because the work profile doesn’t have any distracting bookmarks or tabs. It helps me slip into “work mode” significantly faster, too.
2. Hobby Profile
Since user profiles have their own unique bookmark collections, I’ve found that separate profiles for different hobbies are awesome. Gone are the days where I had thousands of bookmarks in Chrome, organized into a messy hierarchy of a hundred folders and sub-folders.
Instead, I now have a blogging profile where I store blogging-related bookmarks. I also have a main profile where I store personal interest bookmarks, such as reference articles or cooking recipes. If you’re working on a long-term project (e.g. thesis paper), you could also use a separate profile for collecting research bookmarks.
3. Social Media Profile
Bookmarks aren’t the only unique aspect of each profile. Indeed, each profile also maintains its own set of cookies — tiny files that sites can use to identify you when you come back later. For example, when you log onto a forum and check “Remember Me,” a cookie is used to store your identity.
Now consider a site like Twitter. Imagine you have three accounts: one for work, one for your novel-writing pseudonym, and one for your game development shenanigans. Juggling all of these can be a pain. Not to mention all of the other accounts associated with each endeavor (e.g. Twitch, Facebook, GitHub, cloud storage, etc).
By keeping separate profiles, you can stay logged into all relevant sites on a per-endeavor basis. For example, your novel-writing profile could be on Twitter, Goodreads, and Dropbox while your game development profile could be on Twitter, GitHub, Twitch, and a different Dropbox account. Switching is as simple as launching the other profile.
4. Travel Profile
A travel profile is useful in two ways: first, you can store travel-related bookmarks without cluttering up your other profiles, and second, you may be able to grab flight tickets at cheaper prices.
You can also get around this by using private browsing mode, but I prefer the travel profile method because of the bookmark collecting bonus.
5. Extensions Profile
If you’ve ever felt like Chrome has slowed down over time, one likely culprit is an abundance of installed extensions. Every extension needs some CPU and RAM to function properly — some more than others. If you have too many installed at once, they can impact browser performance.
Remember that each Chrome profile has its own set of installed extensions. This helps prevent clutter and overload, making sure that each profile only has the extensions needed for that context.
One example could be the website-blocking extension StayFocusd: maybe you only need it when working, so you only keep it on your work profile. Similarly, you may want to keep shopping-related extensions like CamelCamelCamel and ReviewMeta on a shopping profile.
Other Chrome-Related Tips You Might Like
After learning about user profiles (and picking up a new Chromebook), I’ve come to appreciate Chrome a lot more. The idea may seem insignificant at first, but they really are worthwhile on a day-to-day basis.
Other aspects of Chrome that I like: the built-in Task Manager, the helpful keyboard shortcuts, and both Guest Mode and Incognito Mode. Note that Chrome tends to use more CPU than other browsers, even right out of the box, so you should check out these tips for reducing Chrome CPU usage.
Will you be using Chrome user profiles now? If you already do, how do you use them? What profiles have you set up? Let us know in a comment below!